In any scripted true crime TV show, there are going to be some liberties taken with the truth. In Gypsy Rose Blanchard‘s case, we can already point to a few differences between fiction and reality, including the portrayal of her real-life neighbor, Aleah Woodmansee. So when fans of the The Act watched Gypsy receive the Springfield Gives 2009 Child of the Year Award, plenty couldn’t help but wonder if that happened in real life. Though the show got creative with a few of the details, it turns out that the now-26-year-old really was given such an honor once. In 2007, she was named the Child of the Year by the Oley Foundation.
The Oley Foundation, according to their website, is a national non-profit organization founded to “enrich the lives of patients dependent on home intravenous nutrition (parenteral) and tube feeding (enteral) through education, advocacy, and networking.” Each year, they honor several members of their community, including one “Child of the Year” who is “18 years of age or under, [a] HomePEN consumer for one year or longer, [and] shows a positive attitude in dealing with illness and therapy which encourages and inspires others.” In 2007, Gypsy was given that honor — and she’s still listed among the foundation’s past winners.
In the July/August 2007 edition of LifelineLetter, the foundation’s newsletter, they announced the award, writing, “Gypsy Rose Blancharde [sic] is twelve years old, yet one of her friends says she has wisdom and compassion beyond her years. Multiple health issues don’t stop Gypsy from encouraging and uplifting others. Before Hurricane Katrina caused Gypsy and her mother to relocate, Gypsy would talk at a university in New Orleans on why we should help and love one another.”
They also shared a story of the then-teen’s generosity. “At eight years old, Gypsy took the allowance she had been saving for a trip to Disney and used it instead to buy food and blankets for those in need. When she and her mom ended up in need themselves, Gypsy’s mom says she never complained. Instead, she would say things are getting better and point out a beautiful flower, saying, ‘We didn’t see that yesterday; how lucky that we can see it today.'”
They continued, “Just ten hours before Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, Gypsy and her mother were evacuated to a special needs camp in a safer part of Louisiana. Gypsy named their shelter Camp Bright Beginnings, and arranged for the evacuees to gather for stories, songs, and games. Thank you, Gypsy Rose, for sharing your smile and big heart with the Oley community!”
Years later, the truth would come out — including the fact that Gypsy wasn’t actually 12 years old in 2007. In July of that year, she turned 16. And while she was technically a “HomePEN consumer,” there was no medically necessary reason for her to have one. It was simply another one of the extraneous treatments that her mother, Dee Dee Blanchard, allegedly convinced doctors and the girl herself that she needed. Though Gypsy is now serving time in prison, she is healthy these days and, according to her cousin, finally experiencing the “freedom” she didn’t have with her mother.
The Oley Foundation has not yet responded to In Touch‘s request for comment.
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